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Defender of the Faith


Becoming a writer: my first taste of adulthood
Philip Roth Writer
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When I came out of the army I went… I was invited back to Chicago to teach in the composition… freshman composition programme, and so actually I went and for the next two years I taught there, and I would teach all morning and then I would write all afternoon and then at night I would do my papers I had to do and so on. And it was my first true taste of... adulthood. I was 23 or 24 and I had a job, I made money – not very much – and wrote stories. In about '57, I guess, or '58, I began to publish stories in commercial magazines. First I had a story for... in Esquire Magazine, for which I got paid $800, and with that $800 I quit my job and I came to New York to be a writer.

I... I thought that in those days I could live on $100 a month, and I did. And then I wrote a story that wound up in The New Yorker, and so I made a little more money, and that story was called Defender of the Faith, and it brought me my first headaches as a writer. I didn't know what I was getting into.

The fame of the American writer Philip Roth (1933-2018) rested on the frank explorations of Jewish-American life he portrayed in his novels. There is a strong autobiographical element in much of what he wrote, alongside social commentary and political satire. Despite often polarising critics with his frequently explicit accounts of his male protagonists' sexual doings, Roth received a great many prestigious literary awards which include a Pulitzer Prize for fiction in 1997, and the 4th Man Booker International Prize in 2011.

Listeners: Christopher Sykes

Christopher Sykes is an independent documentary producer who has made a number of films about science and scientists for BBC TV, Channel Four, and PBS.

Tags: University of Chicago, Esquire Magazine, The New Yorker

Duration: 1 minute, 44 seconds

Date story recorded: March 2011

Date story went live: 18 March 2013